Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Forage and Range Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #372870

Research Project: Improved Plant Genetic Resources and Methodologies for Rangelands, Pastures, and Turf Landscapes in the Semiarid Western U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Seed production areas are crucial to conservation outcomes: benefits and risks of an emerging restoration tool

item ZINNEN, J - University Of Illinois
item BROADHURST, L - Commonwealth Scientific And Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
item GIBSON-ROY, P - Kalbarr Resources
item Jones, Thomas
item MATTHEWS, J - University Of Illinois

Submitted to: Biodiversity and Conservation Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/10/2021
Publication Date: 3/26/2021
Citation: Zinnen, J., Broadhurst, L.M., Gibson-Roy, P., Jones, T.A., Matthews, J.W. 2021. Seed production areas are crucial to conservation outcomes: benefits and risks of an emerging restoration tool. Biodiversity and Conservation Journal. 30:1233-1256.

Interpretive Summary: Seed used for ecological restoration has often been obtained by collection from wildlands, but this practice is becoming unsustainable as seed demand increases and wildlands are increasingly compromised by overcollection, novel ecosystems, and climate change. For species that are amenable to cultivation, seed can be produced in an agricultural setting more reliably and in greater quantity than can be collected in the wild. Such areas, termed seed production areas (SPAs), have been generally unrecognized for their positive and negative contributions to the conservation of biodiversity. SPAs may have negative genetic legacies as a result of production under cultivation and their products may come to dominate wild plant populations. However, SPAs enhance the species portfolio and within-species genetic diversity of seeds available for restoration, permit restoration to be conducted on a much larger scale than otherwise contribute to the development of seed industry stakeholders, and provide an opportunity for plant materials with enhanced fitness and greater restoration success.

Technical Abstract: Seed production areas (SPAs) are critical facilitators of ecological restoration, particularly ih highly fragmented landscapes where wildland seed crops are unavailable, unsustainable, or unsuitable. They are particularly useful for species that are amenable to cultivation. Despite increasing research on SPAs, their contribution for biodiversity conservation has been overlooked. SPAs are critical crossroads of conservation outcomes, not just key resources for ecological restoration. We describe how enhanced plant fitness potential in SPAs can lead to two interrelated negative consequences that generate risks for biodiversity at multiple scales: 1. SPAs create genetic legacies as a result of cultivation practices, and 2. SPA progenies can numberically and genetically dominate wild populations of plants. These two consequences can generate risk for biodiversity at multiple scales. Nevertheless, SPA cultivation offers an opportunity to genetically prime SPA-derived populations for success in the wild and enlarge the pool of species available for restoration, thus mitigating or completely reversing some of these risks. SPAs have additional important benefits for biodiversity. First, SPAs allow restoration to be conducted on a much greater scale than could be accomplished with wildland-collected seed. Second, the native seed production industry adds to the base of stakeholders who are invested in protecting and enhancing biodiversity. Third, the enhanced fitness of SPA-derived populations can greatly improve restoration outcomes for both individual species and communities in impacted areas. SPAs must be studied, strategically managed, and supported by governments if their benefits are to be realized.